The Power of the Streak!

No, I don’t mean dashing naked across a cricket pitch….I mean the use of a streak to establish a habit.

I am interested in habit forming, it’s one of the reasons this blog is called ‘Slow Habits’. Habits are ways we can automate many parts of our life. We all have them, the bedtime routine, being just one. The cue is the time, bedtime, and we follow a series of events that result in us being tucked up in bed. It is normally a variation of toilet, wash, floss and brush teeth, get undressed etc. It may also include letting the cat/dog out/in, setting the washing machine or checking on the kids and giving them a last kiss.

The point is that we don’t have to think about it, we just do it. We can have good habits (flossing our teeth, stretching daily etc) and bad habits (biting our nails, smoking, etc).

Harnessing the power of habits can be a great asset in life. Apparently research says it takes 21 days to build a habit, after that it becomes automatic. I’m not too sure about the timing. I have been on diets longer than 21 days that have never become automatic, but let’s work with that number for now.

And this is where the streak comes in. Jerry Steinfeld used this technique for writing jokes. He had a big wall calandar by his desk and every day he wrote a joke he put a big red ‘X’ on that day. As the days built up he had a chain. Missing a day would mean breaking the chain, and he really didn’t want to break the chain. (Read more about this here)

We can use the power of the streak to get us into new good habits, or to extinguish old bad habits. Can I go 3 consecutive days without biting my nails? Now can I make it a week? 10 days? And so on….don’t break the streak! There is a community of runners doing this and some have more than 40 YEARS (!) of consecutive days running under their belts! Now that is a streak!

I have decided to join in and go for a running streak. At first I shall try running daily for a week. If all goes well, I will try for 10 days. I would really like to get to 100 days, just because! I will follow the rules of The United States Running Streak Association. A minimum of 1 mile a day, unaided. Most days I would go further, of course, but that is the minimum.

You can record your streaks in several ways. The Luddites would probably prefer a chart or calendar, you can always use different colours for different habits, and the technologically minded may prefer an iPhone app like Lift. But go ahead give it a try, and let me know how you do.

Anyone else up for a running streak? Let’s start today and see how far we can get. I’m off to  run now…day 1 of my streak!

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